Af­ter Bol­ly­wood, Nol­ly­wood, Uganda’s turn

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE - BY AMY FAL­LON

It’s a sear­ing hot day, and a group of com­man­dos are at­tempt­ing a dar­ing pri­son break.

“Stop, get them!” Gen. Placdo, a drunk­ard and an in­vin­ci­ble Kung Fu mas­ter in khaki fa­tigues, shouts in the lo­cal Lu­ganda lan­guage.

“You will never suc­ceed, we will de­stroy the world! You will see!” screams a re­cur­ring vil­lain in a black bal­a­clava, who is the leader of the Tiger Mafia, be­fore a fist­fight en­sues.

This is no real-life jailbreak, rather a scene from “Op­er­a­tion Kakon­goliro” (“Ugan­dan Ex­pend­ables”), an ac­tion film due for re­lease later this year. It is be­ing filmed in a scrap yard in Wakaliga, a slum in Uganda’s cap­i­tal Kam­pala now bap­tised “Wakali­wood.”

“It is go­ing to be as big as Nol­ly­wood, Bol­ly­wood or even Hol­ly­wood — there’s no rea­son why not,” writer, direc­tor, edi­tor and pro­ducer Isaac Nab­wana boasted of Uganda’s in­for­mal film in­dus­try — boldly in­sist­ing stu­dios in Nige­ria, In­dia and the United States will get a run for their money.

“We think Hol­ly­wood peo­ple will come here,” he said.

Raised by his grand­par­ents in Wakaliga, which to­day has a pop­u­la­tion of j ust un­der 2,000 peo­ple, Nab­wana’s fam­ily didn’t buy a tele­vi­sion un­til 1984.

Be­fore that Nab­wana would lis­ten to de­scrip­tions of the movies watched by his older broth­ers at lo­cal video halls, the shacks where the ma­jor­ity of Ugan­dans still watch movies in lo­cal lan­guages.

“They would tell you and I would imag­ine what was in that movie,” Nab­wana told AFP.

When he fin­ished school, he be­gan mak­ing and sell­ing bricks to get by. Over nine years Nab­wana, 42, built Ra­mon Film Pro­duc­tions, Uganda’s first ac­tion- film com­pany, ful­fill­ing his child­hood dream of mak­ing movies. To­day he is still build­ing. “We don’t have enough props, we build them our­selves,” said Nab­wana, ex­plain­ing that the rocket launch­ers in his movies are made from fry­ing pans and plas­tic tubes.

Cow Blood and Con­doms

Cow blood was ini­tially used as a spe­cial ef­fect un­til it made the ac­tors sick. Con­doms full of red food col­or­ing are now stuck to their chests for the glo­ri­ously graphic death scenes.

“We need good cam­eras, soft­ware,” said Nab­wana. “The big­gest chal­lenge is money.”

But de­spite the hur­dles, the mar­ried fa­ther of three, who founded Ra­mon in 2005, has pro­duced about 46 fea­ture length films.

The most suc­cess­ful, “Who Killed Cap­tain Alex,” was shot in one month in 2010 for about only US$200 (184 eu­ros).

It’s the story of the Tiger Mafia and the re­cur­ring vil­lain in Nab­wana’s films, who rules Kam­pala with an iron fist but has gone on the run. Capt. Alex is sent to hunt him down, but is mys­te­ri­ously mur­dered.

Set dur­ing the present day, it was in­spired by the era of Uganda’s late dic­ta­tor Idi Amin, which Nab­wana grew up un­der. Re­leased in­ter­na­tion­ally a few weeks ago on YouTube, the trailer has been viewed more than two mil­lion times.

“I loved the film so much that I moved into a third world slum to be part of it,” re­called Alan Hof­ma­nis, 45, who had worked in the film in­dus­try in New York.

In­spired af­ter see­ing some of Nab­wana’s work in 2011, he came to Uganda shortly af­ter to track him down and has since be­come a key pro­moter. He said the Ra­mon films re­mind him of when he acted out the In­di­ana Jones films when he was a child — pro­vid­ing for a uniquely en­dear­ing cinema ex­pe­ri­ence.

But he said the key hur­dle is that Uganda’s film in­dus­try is “mas­sively pi­rated.”

Af­ter the films are made, the pro­duc­tion staff and ac­tors, who usu­ally have to sup­ply their own wardrobe and do their own makeup, ped­dle them door- todoor across Uganda for up to 3,000 shillings a film, or around US$1.

Hof­ma­nis, who has now made Uganda his home, has taken up the role as Wakali­wood’s “bridge to the West.” He is cur­rently help­ing pro­mote an In­ter­net crowd­fund­ing cam­paign to raise money for equip­ment and, hope­fully, a proper stu­dio.

He is also crowd­sourc­ing movie scenes, with film buffs from any­where around the world be­ing of­fered scenes in an up­com­ing Ra­mon pro­duc­tion — “Te­baa­tusasula: EBOLA” — about a new strain of the virus that causes suf­fer­ers’ heads to ex­plode when they cough three times.

In the film, the Ugan­dan army is rac­ing to stop a global pan­demic, so for­eign scenes are needed.

Footage has so far been “do­nated” by a fam­ily in In­done­sia, and there’s also been in­ter­est from Ger­many, South Korea and the United States. Hof­ma­nis also said he now has di­rec­tors of “ma­jor U. S. fes­ti­vals” call­ing him about Nab­wana’s movies, which has ex­cited the ac­tors.

Nab­wana also dreams that he or his per­form­ers will one day be fa­mous in Hol­ly­wood.

“I want some­one to bring Ugan­dan sto­ries to the world,” he said.

AFP

Ra­mon Film Pro­duc­tions and “Wakali­woods” co-pro­ducer Alan “Ssali” Hof­ma­nis di­rects and films a scene of one of their up com­ing movies in Kam­pala, Uganda on March 4.

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